Group's after-the-fact variances still a sore point for Wescott officials

The Shawano Leader/October 14, 2004
By Tim Ryan

Despite the fact that, according to records, his properties all eventually come into compliance, the fact that Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy has been granted a number of permits and variances after work was already begun has been an on-going irritant to Wescott officials.

It also seems to raise the ire of Wescott residents. Officials in Wescott say they hear frequent complaints about Samanta Roy supposedly being allowed to "get away" with things that other residents couldn't.

Town Supervisor Phil Zuhse said in an interview in August - when Samanta Roy's most recent variance request was being processed - that he hears from local residents when the group is before town officials seeking after-the-fact permits. "Why are they above the law?" he said, is what residents most want to know.

Zuhse said in a later interview that the permit question seems to have died down, and most people who bring up Samanta Roy to him now are instead asking about his property purchases.

Not all permits have been after-the-fact, however, and when the group does request an after-the-fact permit, it pays the price.

"An after-the-fact fee is double the cost," said Shawano County Planning Director Tim Reed. "That's the only tool we have to fine them."

Reed added that in the case of Midwest Amusement Park, the go-kart track the group recently opened in Wescott, the group checked with the county before doing anything.

"With the racetrack, they came in and asked, 'what can we do?'" Reed said. "And we gave them the information. They have a conditional use permit (previously granted to the property) that allowed them to do what they've done. They did ask for land use permits for two structures, a scoring tower and storage shed, and they came in beforehand and got them."

But the group's track record of getting permits before starting work is spotty.

"In almost every case that's come before us it's been an after-the-fact," said Frank Buss, who chairs the county's Board of Adjustment. "They've gone ahead and done something and then it's brought to our attention and they apply for a variance, and they (pay) double the charge."

Representatives of the group have maintained in some cases that they were working along what they believed to be the county's guidelines and in some cases the county's very instructions to them. Discussions at one of the town's Zoning Committee meetings seemed to suggest the group had been the victim of conflicting information about what was allowed.

The Town of Wescott sees it another way.

"It means they got caught," said Wescott Building Inspector Paul Hahn. "If we didn't catch them, they wouldn't be here (asking for a permit). After-the-fact means they've been caught."

Buss said there is no advantage to having started work before applying for a permit. The fact that the work is under way does not make it more likely that an after-the-fact permit will be approved.

Buss said there were four cases where the group came before the board for after-the-fact variances. Two have been denied and two were approved. However, one of the four to which Buss referred is listed as owned by a different property owner. The Leader could not confirm that the property owner is indeed a member of Samanta Roy's group.

The first after-the-fact variance was the original building on the Frailing Road property, according to Buss.

"Originally, when they first built their first building, the entrance was too close to the highway," Buss said. "That one we approved because they had the steel and everything up and we thought, 'well, this is just a one-time deal.'"

The county Planning Department was unable to locate the record of the variance to which Buss referred. Buss said the county's Board of Adjustment was a relatively new body then and it was possible not all of the paperwork is on file.

The latest case was an after-the-fact variance granted for a porch roof at N5696 Highway 47-55. It was the only time that the Board of Adjustment overturned the recommendation of the Town of Wescott regarding one of Samanta Roy's properties, according to Buss.

"We couldn't see any reason why we shouldn't (grant the variance)," Buss said, adding that the sight line problems raised by the town were not caused by the group.

"They were caused by Shawano County relocating their road," Buss said. "It wasn't their fault. We didn't feel there was any real problem with visual impairment."

Records show that 10 permits were issued for various work on Samanta Roy's property between 1978 and 1984. None of those are noted as being after-the-fact. After-the-fact land use and building permits were issued for a second story on the Frailing Road house in 1999 but the work was a permitted use and didn't require a hearing.

On Sept. 7, according to Wescott officials, all outstanding permit fees for the property at N5696 Highway 47-55 were paid off, bringing the property into compliance as far as the town was concerned. On the same day, the town's Plan Commission considered a variance request to allow the group to repair the basement at that property. The Plan Commission recommended that the county approve it.

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